Friday, May 24, 2013

Story-A-Day May: Why Witches Won't Cross Water

I began this the other day, and will finish it when I finish it. But here's what I have.
 Three witches walked the long, high road along the banks of Mongee River, taking its twists and tussocks easily in their stride. They wore strong boots with thick, wide soles that helped them to conquer the uneven turf without so much as a turned ankle all the day.

 The youngest walked ahead of her older sisters, being the most sure-footed and the best navigator. It was always her job to foresee perturbances and find a path around them, whether walking miles of bumpy, muddy ground or setting out a perfect tea party for a wealthy family that might purchase the special services the sisters offered. She had been uprooting obstacles for 78 years now and it was second nature to her, never questioned or reflected upon.

 Till they came to the door in the water.

 It was 7 feet high, made seemingly of the shimmering live river water it swirled up from, and blocking their path at a narrow juncture between tightly grown trees on one side, and a rock formation on the other. The older two stopped several yards shy of the thing, and glanced to their problem-solving sibling.

“Well, Ruby, what do you make of that?” asked the oldest.

Her young sister stepped close to the door, without touching it. Within the set shape, the fluid moved rapidly, rushing and foaming; she watched as live fish swam about their business, apparently unaware of the odd change affecting their environment.

“Perhaps someone has cast a spell, Lu,” she suggested.

“Powerful spell.” Lu observed. Beside her, Jacklyn nodded, stroking her chin.

“Elementalism, I guess. But for what purpose?” she said.

 She stared at Ruby, and Ruby stared at the amazing door, lost in its beauty. Her sisters waited with some calm, expecting her to suggest a course of action, perhaps perform a counter-spell. But she did nothing for a quarter of an hour. The air was growing cold, when Jacklyn got tired of waiting.

 “Ruby! It’s chilly near this damned door. Fix it! We’ve got work to do in Kelfield early tomorrow. We have to go.”

“Don’t know what to do.” Ruby came out of her contemplation with no idea of how to get pas the door safely. Well, just one.

“We could walk through it,” she said. “It’s water.”

Jacklyn shook her head. “Could be more than just water. It’s animated, and who knows by what?”

“Or who.” Lu added.

 Ruby sighed and tried to think hard on the problem, but nothing came to her. They couldn’t climb the trees, as the branches were too thin to support them, but too closely set to push through. They couldn’t climb the slippery rocks safely, as they were too wet and steep. She knew her sisters hoped she could spell it away, but she knew she had no such power in her, and besides, she didn’t want to destroy it— she found it wondrous. There must be something else to do.

 Jacklyn stood fairly steaming in disapproval, yet Ruby couldn’t come up with a useful idea.

“Maybe we should turn back and find a way to go around this.”

Lu scowled. “After all this walking?”

“What choice do we have?”

“Always another choice. Just need to find it.” Jacklyn grunted.

 She scratched her head, and began to think on the issue herself, something she was unused to doing. The older sisters would happily put their full powers and concentration into any task, so long as they didn’t have to decide on the task; that was Ruby’s job. But there was work to be done elsewhere, and the daylight was going. Beams of red gold sunset filtered through the door, splashing rainbow shadows onto the wet wall of rock. It was beautiful, she’d admit, but probably dangerous, and damned annoying.

“Could we call our friend Havre?” she asked, and ruby shook her head.

 “He’s on a mission, remember? Rescuing that dragon egg he heard about.”

“That’s right.” Jacklyn said.  

Lu leaned against the nearest tree and rubbed her calf.

“We might have to camp here, if this goes on much longer.”

“Too dangerous.” Jacklyn said. “Can’t sleep near a magic door you didn’t call.”

“Then we'd better get past it!” Lu stood up again, angry and tired. Ruby could feel her frustration, and she decided to try the only way she had left.

 “I’ll go through first. I’ll find out if it’s safe.” she offered.

“No.” Jacklyn said, but Ruby blew her a kiss and stepped through the glistening clear door before she could change her mind, and disappeared. Lu stepped back from the door, a horrified look on her face. Jacklyn just looked angry.

“Damn!” she cried, “Why didn’t you grab her arm?”

“She moved too fast!” Lu said. Her voice cracked, and she sobbed. “Why didn’t she try a spell first?”

“We’ll have to try to spell her back,” Jacklyn said, “or else follow.”

Lu wiped her eyes and stepped back further. She had no desire to go through that door, even to save her sister.

© By Mari Kozlowski, May 24, 2013

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